The pandemic seems to be easing and school is set to start in September here in Ontario. When planning for back-to-school, here are some eco-friendly back-to-school ideas and sustainability tips that you will want to consider.
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Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee-drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra and will keep me supplied with caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.
First off, I should mention that I don’t buy everything new at the start of every school year. That’s not a sustainable practice. Instead, we use what we have if it’s in good condition.
In my case, our son’s school bag, lunch bag and water bottle from last year are in excellent condition so we will not be purchasing a new one. Last year, we bought higher-quality products and they are lasting longer.
We do have to buy a few items, such as the required supplies, pencils, and shoes. OMG, is it just my kid that seems to outgrow shoes every 3 months?
With stores re-opening, you might be able to shop in person this year, but you can still shop online. If you are looking at buying sustainable products, here are some options you might want to consider (if your budget allows it).
How To Spot A Sustainable Backpacks
Many affordable backpacks are made of polyester, those that are made of more sustainable material are probably not affordable, especially for kids. Here are some tips when shopping for backpacks:
- Look for backpacks made of recycled polyester
- Go for high quality, don’t go for cheap
Here’s an example of a sustainable backpack from Parkland.
Back-to-School Writing/Art Implements
However, kids love markers. I hate that markers are made of plastics. If there are some sustainable markers out there that you know of and that are easily available and affordable, PLEASE let me know in the comments below ▼▼▼!
Yes, my kids do have markers. Did you know that there is a recycling program for spent markers? Find out more on my post: Red, Yellow, and Blue, I have plastic markers, what should I do!
I love that my son’s school requires wearing simple uniforms. The dress code includes a white or navy polo shirt with navy pants. No matter your budget or lifestyle, you can find these basics just about anywhere.
When buying uniforms, consider buying gently used items, or selling your gently used items. It’s more sustainable that way. Places to check here in Niagara include Good Will, Kijiji, Value Village, and Buy and Sell groups on Facebook.
We hold on to my oldest son’s uniforms to be reused by my little one eventually.
Thankfully, litterless lunches are becoming the norm, at least here in Ontario, where reusable everything is encouraged.
Reusable lunch bags or boxes
Not all lunch bags are created equal. If you are using any kind of reusable lunch bag, you are doing your part to help reduce your impact (or your children’s) on the environment. However, there are some lunch bag choices that are better than others.
What to look for? Most insulated lunch bags will be made of some kind of plastic. For a more sustainable choice, look for lunch bags made from recycled polyester or recycled water bottles. Here are a few good choices you can buy online.
The sticker shock on those sustainable lunch bag options can be high, it’s the inconvenient truth about going green for sure. The best option is to use what you have until it’s not usable anymore, then you can consider more sustainable options.
Reusable Water Bottles
If you are using a reusable bottle, congratulations, you are on top of the game already. There are many stainless steel options available. If you are looking for a great recommendation, here’s a great suggestion loved by many:
Food storage options
Glass or plastic reusable containers
I know that sending your kids to school with glass containers is scary, I know, my child is just going in Grade 2. I send him plastic reusable containers, and that’s OK. We need to do the best we can. We use some Sistema containers available at Canadian Tire. I really like the lunch cube for the kids and sometimes the adults too! But, my husband and I, can use reusable glass containers as well.
For warm food such as mac and cheese or pasta, we use a large mouth thermos such as this one from Canadian Tire.
Silicon Zip Lock Bags
Silicone Bags are available at Canadian Tire or if you are in Niagara and want to support a local eco store, you might want to check out Garden City Essential which is also featured in my post about Eco-Friendly Places to Shop in Niagara post.
Beeswax wraps can be very versatile tools to have lying around the kitchen. They can be used to cover bowls or wrap leftover goods with, but you can also use them to pack school lunches. You can wrap sandwiches, or create pockets for popcorn, cookies or other kids’ snacks.
I have a whole post dedicated to zero-waste snacks, so hop on over to this post: zero-waste snacks for school and work lunches for some great ideas!
My children are way too young to have any of their own technology such as iPads and iPhones. I, however, I’m quite attached to my iPhone. I’ve recently purchased my iPhone case from a sustainable brand Canadian brand called Pela Case (<- that’s an affiliate link).
Pela makes eco-friendly cases for all types of smartphones, not just iPhones. What’s great about Pela Cases is that they are plant-based and can be disposed of in the compost bin when they are at the end of their life.
I love my Pela case and I became an ambassador for the company. You might find me posting often about Pela on my Instagram.
Here’s my affiliate link if you plan on buying one, I promise you’ll love it and you’ll feel good about making an eco-conscious purchase. It doesn’t cost you anything to use the link but, it may provide me with a small commission.
In case you are on the fence, Pela Case sometime offers “Buy One, Get One Free” deal so that you can wash them often during this pandemic.
So, to sum it all up, only buy if you need to, buy second-hand when you can, and if you are buying new, consider what the products are made of. If they are made of plastic, buy stuff made from recycled plastic when and if possible.
Going back to school is met with a lot of anxiety again this year. Have a healthy and safe return to all students, teachers and staff!